Celtic’s performance in the semi-final had been a very fine one and the fans were delighted that their heroes had made the final. The players were equally pleased, well aware that they had risen to the occasion and overcome their talented opponents. Jock Stein, for instance, smiled broadly when I asked him if he had played well that evening;
“Aye, I had quite a good game that night. Maybe there were so few I remember that one. Jack Rowley was playing at centre-forward and he was a prolific goal scorer. Manchester United had already beaten Rangers in the competition and everyone felt that they were favourites for the trophy. Johnny Carey was a big name in their side at the time, they had players like Dennis Violett and others who would be involved in the Munich Air Disaster as well. But it’s true to say that I had a good game that night!”
Perhaps a comment in the Scottish Daily Mail might throw some light on Jock Stein’s performance, or more precisely, his attitude that afternoon at Hampden: Stein ‘was a bit hard at the outset on Saturday on Rowley, who never quite recovered from a leg injury and latterly went to outside-left’. That’s what called ‘imposing yourself on your opponent?’
It had been a fine performance by Celtic and their play was highly praised in the Scottish sporting press. One man who chose the competition to show just what could do was John McPhail, who in 1999, told me about the players in the side at that time;
‘Well, Charlie Tully was really good. I was responsible for getting him to Parkhead in the first place. My throat had been giving me bother and they sent me over to Coleraine in Northern Ireland, where I had some friends. Every Saturday, I used to go into Coleraine or up to Belfast to see Belfast Celtic and Tully impressed me immensely.
When I came back, I mentioned him to Chic Geatons – who was coaching for Celtic – and Jimmy McGrory and said “there’s a man over there who is worth having a look at’ and next thing they have got him over and signed him. By the time I got back, he had played against Rangers – which obviously I missed – and I could not believe all the jubilation. I knew he was good but I didn’t think he was that good. I joined the team again and then realised he was something else. What we needed was a lift and Charlie gave us that.
Bobby Collins was a great wee player. Industrious, hard. Not the same ability as Jimmy Johnstone, for instance, but he had pace and he crossed some great balls to me at centre, crosses driven hard,; you just had to touch it and it was in the back of the net. Bertie Peacock was the engine room for Charlie and also played some good stuff. Bobby Evans, of course, was another engine room at the back. And, of course, there was Jock Stein, the old steadying head, and the fullbacks like Sean Fallon. We had a great keeper for a while in George Hunter, who later took ill. Johnny Bonnar came in for the Coronation Cup and he certainly did his bit.
Frankly, Celtic’s legions of fans could not believe what was happening. After the disappointments of the season just finished, the best they must have been hoping for was that their side would not disgrace itself in this Coronation Cup. Instead of that, they had seen their heroes beat two of the biggest names in English football! Now, only Hibs stood between their team and the trophy. The fans must have thought it was like being in a dream world! Could Celtic actually win the competition?